Schizoaffective Disorder

Learn About Schizoaffective Disorder

Schizophrenia as an illness with hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that aren’t there), delusions (unshakable belief in things that are untrue) and bizarre, unpredictable behaviors – the positive or productive symptoms of the illness. Schizoaffective disorder is like schizophrenia but with prominent mood symptoms that outlast the defining signs and symptoms of schizophrenia. People with schizoaffective disorder may present for treatment depressed, and it is not until they have been in treatment for a while that it becomes apparent that there is more to the clinical picture than just depression. Likewise for bipolar disorder, where patients may present for treatment depressed or manic (an extreme mood state of uncharacteristic and heightened irritability or euphoria). In fact, this is reflected in the two subsets of schizoaffective disorder – depressive and bipolar, respectively.

While schizoaffective disorder is not a new diagnosis, it is becoming more frequent, perhaps because clinicians are more attuned to the presence of persistent mood symptoms preceding or following a period of psychosis (delusions, hallucinations, or grossly disorganized thought or behavior). The treatment for schizoaffective disorder differs from that of schizophrenia in that the mood component of the illness often requires its own targeting intervention – such as antidepressants or mood stabilizers – in addition to the medication required to treat the psychosis. Nonetheless, the prognosis is no worse than that for schizophrenia, and may be better – as in general, the preservation of the mood component is associated with improved response to treatment relative to forms of psychosis in which mood is flat, indifferent, or inappropriate.

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